Experts confirm Kerala's fears on Mullaperiyar Dam

The Mullaperiyar Dam is situated in Idukki district of Kerala, which falls in Zone 3 seismic category where quakes of magnitude up to 6 on the Richter scale are possible.

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The Mullaperiyar Dam is situated in Idukki district of Kerala, which falls in Zone 3 seismic category where quakes of magnitude up to 6 on the Richter scale are possible. The dam has been shaken by tremors through much of its life, but fresh fears stem from the new cracks in the dam structure.
 
Some believe the dam, breaking as it were at the seams, poses a huge threat to millions of people, wildlife and agriculture. It could change the topography of the area itself.
 
Retired chief engineer and a member of Inter State Water Advisory Committee, M. Sasidharan, said, "No guarantee that dam could withstand, especially when a quake happens within a perimeter of 5 km of even 5 magnitude. No force can save this dam because it has become irreparable."
 
Kerala has been exerting pressure on New Delhi. It has been able to convince the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that the Mullaperiyar issue was a humanitarian crisis in the making.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said, "There is no point of having a dispute here. For them it is water and we need safety. Don't people in Kerala too need safety?"
 
Built in 1985 across the Periyar River, the dam was constructed with lime-surkhi mortar. It caters to the irrigation needs of Tamil Nadu and also allows the state to generate electricity.
 
Now Tamil Nadu wants to increase the water-level of the reservoir, going completely against Kerala, which wants it instead reduced from the current 136 feet to 120 feet. They say that the dam is ageing and weakening because of the passage of time and that it cannot withstand higher magnitude earthquakes in a region that is already prone.
 
IIT Roorkee deputy director Prof D.K. Paul said, "We carried out a separate study for estimating what will be the maximum hazard at the dam site under MC conditions and DV conditions and found tension develops at the heal and the base. There is a possibility of cracks as soon as the large magnitude earthquakes visit."
 
As Kerala and Tamil Nadu engage in a political war over the dam, the Mullaperiyar project sits on a possible tinderbox. Anticipating threat to the dam, the Kerala High Court has also asked the state government about the safety measures taken.

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